A man accused of twin murders in a Phoenix suburb and facing a possible death sentence used language in his initial court appearance mimicking false legal theories advanced by antigovernment “sovereign citizens.”
Michael Lee Crane, 31, is charged in Maricopa County with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of armed robbery, burglary and arson. He is accused of killing Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro in their Paradise Valley, Ariz., home on Jan. 31, then setting fire to the couple’s home in an attempt to conceal the crime.
Crane, who previously served time in prison in Arizona, also has been identified by authorities as a suspect in the gunshot murder of Phoenix cigar salesman Bruce Gaudet. He was found shot to death in his home, which was burned down just a few days before the Shapiros were killed.
At his initial appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court, Crane attempted to use what sounded like language commonly employed by sovereign citizens.
When the judge asked the defendant his name, he responded, “It’s capital M, lower-case i.” He also said he didn’t want a court-appointed attorney.
Sovereign citizens often want to act as their own attorneys and frequently punctuate their names in unusual ways, occasionally using all capital letters or hyphens and colons in the mistaken notion that the practice somehow sets them free from government regulation and control.
Standing before the court without handcuffs, Crane didn’t particularly sound like he had all his sovereign citizen lines memorized, if that was his intent.
When the judge asked Crane if he had any questions, he responded: “I have a statement I would like to make.”
“I would advise you against that, sir,” the judge said. “You have the right to remain silent.”
But the judge wasn’t about to stop Crane.
“I would like to reserve my right to Uniform Commercial Code 1-207 and Uniform Commercial Code 1-103,” he said. Sovereigns frequently cite the commercial code in the belief that there’s a contract of some sort between the government and its citizens.
“The Uniform Commercial Code does not apply to criminal proceedings, sir,” the judge told Crane.
“It is a commercial affair, that correct?” he responded.
“This is a criminal proceeding, sir,” the judge said again, before Crane was heard muttering, “whatever.”
The case against Crane is based, at least part, on statements provided to police by one of five co-defendants arrested on related, non-murder charges, the Arizona Republic reported.